Professor/Energy Conservationist Lehman Dies

A retired faculty member who did extensive energy research and conservation projects on campus along with his teaching has died just four days after his sister, another former EMU professor, passed away.


Robert C. Lehman, professor of physical science at EMU
Robert C. Lehman, professor of physical science


Robert C. Lehman, 79, professor of physical science at EMU from 1955 to 1980, died Feb. 2, 2009, at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Four days earlier, his sister, Esther K. Lehman, 85, died at Oak Lea, Virginia Mennonite Retirement Community. She was professor emerita of education, having taught at EMU from 1951 until 1982.

Dr. Lehman was born Mar. 22, 1929 in Harrisonburg and was the son of the late Chester K. (C.K.) and Myra Kendig Lehman.

Lehman taught astronomy and physics courses and was director of the M.T. Brackbill Planetarium, 1967-79, in the Suter Science Center.

On June 10, 1954, he married Ruby K. Swartzendruber, who survives. Also surviving are four children – Judith Ann, James Alan, Donald LeRoy and Douglas Chester Lehman – one sister, Dorothy L. Yoder, and four grandchildren, Allison, Eric, Brian and Michael Lehman.

Lehman spent a 1976-77 sabbatical year in designing and implementing and self-initiated projects and programs to raise the energy conservation consciousness-level on campus.

He installed a monitor in the Suter Science Center where anyone interested could see real-time graphing of the peaks and valleys of the college’s daily energy demands. Lehman’s study prompted the administration to repair steam lines that were losing heat in the winter, modify heating and cooling systems to be more efficient, change some lighting to use less electricity and invest more in energy-saving maintenance. The result was a $66,000 reduction in utility costs in a single year.

The EMU board of trustees gave Lehman a “resolution of appreciation” for his energy conservation efforts. During his tenure, he also led continuing education classes and seminars on solar energy alternatives.

“Robert was always an innovative strategic thinker with basic competence in many areas,” said John L. Horst, professor emeritus of physics at EMU. “In many ways he was my mentor.

“Robert was a good bass singer,” Horst noted. “He sang with the Park View Melodians as a high school and college student here. The group traveled widely during some summers.”

In 1970, Lehman was named president of Homes Foundation, a local non-profit group that developed housing for low- and moderate-income families. He was co-founder and first president of the Park View Federal Credit Union and was an amateur radio operator.

A 1950 EMU graduate, he earned a master’s degree in physics and a doctorate in biophysics from Penn State University.

He was a member of Park View Mennonite Church, where a memorial service will be held 3 p.m. Feb. 16.

Memorial contributions can be made to Mennonite Central Committee, Akron, Pa., and the Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) at EMU.